I wanted to go to Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe for lunch yesterday, but they are closed on Mondays, so my wife suggested we go to Sichuan Gourmet instead. I didn’t need my arm twisted.
Sichuan Gourmet has a specials menu that changes up from time to time, and I think this is the first time we’d ever seen hand-pulled noodles on their menu. I was primed for noodles, so I ordered the hand-pulled noodles with lamb (pork intestines being the other meat option), and Bridget ordered “sweet-and-spicy”. The waiter pointed out to her that her choice was a “two-pepper” dish (everything at SG comes in either HOT or VERY HOT), but she waved him off because we know how spicy the food is.
I’m not sure that I believe that the noodles I got were hand-pulled, because they seemed a lot like regular wide noodles to me, but maybe that’s just the differene between Sichuan-style and Xi’an-style (the noodles we get at Gene’s). The dish was decidely Sichuan, though. Plenty of Sichuan peppercorns, and a thin, peppery sauce filled with chopped red chilies. It also had several whole baby bok choy in it, and thinly-sliced lamb. It was really good, but I think I like the thick noodles and heavy garlic of the Xi’an noodles a little bit better.
Gene’s Flatbread Cafe is one of the most mis-named food businesses you can imagine. I mean, he does actually offer a type of flatbread sandwich with cumin-spiced chunks of lamb, but the actual speciality is these Xi’an-style hand-pulled noodles. There’s someone in the kitchen pulling them fresh all the time, and they come quickly cooked, swimming in the most intensely garlicky, peppery oil, and garnished with ground hot pepper and cilantro. I am sitting here sweating jut thinking about them.
We used to live about 10 minutes away from the Woburn location, and for a while we went on a kick of having these noodles for dinner every Friday night. Now, it’s not as convenient, so it’s more of an intentional visit than a spur-of-the-moment dinner or lunch choice. This visit, at the beginning of November was our first time back inside the restaurant since the pandemic began. During the time when they were doing take-out only, we would order ahead, park the car directly across the street, pick up the noodles, and greedily eat them right in the car. This is the sort of thing you want to eat as fresh as possible once it comes out of the kitchen.
Gene’s is not the only place in Greater Boston that serves this kind of noodle, but they’re the best, hands down. I have read that Xi’an Fine Foods from New York City is thinking about expanding into the Boston area, which might give Gene a run for his money, but for now he owns this. He also has other great stuff, the least of which is the aformentioned flatbread. I have had a couple of the soups – one with noodles and one with dumplings, both redolent with hot pepper. My wife likes the cold rice noodles that they only have on Saturdays.
The garlic on your breath lasts for a good two days afterward. Good for whatever ails you.